of his intercourse and conversations with them, and the attempts which they made to present his teachings in some systematic form. If he could not arrest the progress of disorder in his country, nor throw out principles which should be helpful in guiding it to a better state under some new constitutional system, he gave important lessons for the formation of individual character, and the manner in which the duties in the relations of society should be discharged.
Foremost among these we must rank his distinct enunciation of “the golden rule,” deduced by him from his study of man’s His Golden Rule mental constitution. Several times he gave that rule in express words:—“What you do not like when done to yourself do not do to others.” The peculiar nature of the Chinese language enabled him to express this rule by one character, which for want of a better term we may translate in English by “reciprocity.” When the ideagram is looked at, it tells its meaning to the eye. It is composed of two other characters, one denoting “heart,” and the other—itself composite—denoting “as.” Tze-kung once asked if there were any one word which would serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life, and the master replied, yes, naming this character (恕, shu), the “as heart,” i.e. my heart in sympathy with yours; and then he added his usual explanation of it, which has been given above. It has been said that he only gave the rule in a negative form, but he understood it also in its positive and most comprehensive force, and deplored, on one occasion at least, that he had not himself always attained to taking the initiative in doing to others as he would have them do to him.
Another valuable contribution to ethical and social science was the way in which he inculcated the power of example, and the necessity of benevolence and righteousness in all who were in authority. Many years before he was born, an ancient hero and king had proclaimed in China: “The great God has conferred on the people a moral sense, compliance with which would show their nature invariably right. To cause them tranquilly to pursue the course which it indicates is the task of the sovereign.” Confucius knew the utterance well; and he carried out the principle of it, and insisted on its application in all the relations of society. He taught emphatically that a bad man was not fit to rule. As a father or a magistrate, he might wield the instruments of authority and punish the transgressors of his laws, but no forth putting of force would countervail the influence of his example. On the other hand, it only needed virtue in the higher position to secure it in the lower. This latter side of his teaching is far from being complete and correct, but the former has, no doubt, been a check on the “powers that be,” both in the family and the state, ever since Confucius became the acknowledged sage of his country. It has operated both as a restraint upon evil and a stimulus to good.
A few of his more characteristic sayings may here be given, the pith and point of which attest his discrimination of character, and show the tendencies of hisWise Sayings. views:—
“What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.”
“The superior man is dignified, but does not wrangle; social, but not a partisan. He does not promote a man simply because of his words, nor does he put good words aside because of the man.”
“A poor man who does not flatter, and a rich man who is not proud, are passable characters; but they are not equal to the poor who yet are cheerful, and the rich who yet love the rules of propriety.”
“Learning, undigested by thought, is labour lost; thought unassisted by learning, is perilous.”
“In style all that is required is that it convey the meaning.”
“Extravagance leads to insubordination, and parsimony to meanness. It is better to be mean than insubordinate.”
“A man can enlarge his principles; principles do not enlarge the man.” That is, man is greater than any system of thought.
“The cautious seldom err.”
Sententious sayings like these have gone far to form the ordinary Chinese character. Hundreds of thousands of the literati can repeat every sentence in the classical books; the masses of the people have scores of the Confucian maxims, and little else of an ethical nature in their memories,—and with a beneficial result.
Confucius laid no claim, it has been seen, to divine revelations. Twice or thrice he did vaguely intimate that he had a mission from heaven, and that until it was accomplished he was safe against all attempts to injure him; but his His religion and philosophy. teachings were singularly devoid of reference to anything but what was seen and temporal. Man as he is, and the duties belonging to him in society, were all that he concerned himself about. Man’s nature was from God; the harmonious acting out of it was obedience to the will of God; and the violation of it was disobedience. But in affirming this, there was a striking difference between his language and that of his own ancient models. In the King the references to the Supreme Being are abundant; there is an exulting awful recognition of Him as the almighty personal Ruler, who orders the course of nature and providence. With Confucius the vague, impersonal term, Heaven, took the place of the divine name. There is no glow of piety in any of his sentiments. He thought that it was better that men should not occupy themselves with anything but themselves.
There were, we are told in the Analects, four things of which he seldom spoke—extraordinary things, feats of strength, rebellious disorder and spiritual beings. Whatever the institutions of Chow prescribed about the services to be paid to the spirits of the departed, and to other spirits, he performed reverently, up to the letter; but at the same time, when one of the ministers of Lu asked him what constituted wisdom, he replied: “To give one’s self earnestly to the duties due to men, and while respecting spiritual beings, to keep aloof from them,— that may be called wisdom.”
But what belief underlay the practice, as ancient as the first footprints of history in China, of sacrificing to the spirits of the departed, Confucius would not say. There was no need, in his opinion, to trouble the mind about it. “While you cannot serve men,” he replied to the inquiry of Tze-lu, “how can you serve spirits?” And what becomes of a man’s own self, when he has passed from the stage of life? The oracle of Confucius was equally dumb on this question. “While you do not know life,” he said to the same inquirer, “what can you know about death?” Doubts as to the continued existence of the departed were manifested by many leading men in China before the era of Confucius. In the pages of Tso K‛iu-ming, when men are swearing in the heat of passion, they sometimes pause and rest the validity of their oaths on the proviso that the dead to whom they appeal really exist. The “expressive silence” of Confucius has gone to confirm this scepticism.
His teaching was thus hardly more than a pure secularism. He had faith in man, man made for society, but he did not care to follow him out of society, nor to present to him motives of conduct derived from the consideration of a future state. Good and evil would be recompensed by the natural issues of conduct within the sphere of time,—if not in the person of the actor, yet in the persons of his descendants. If there were any joys of heaven to reward virtue, or terrors of future retribution to punish vice, the sage took no heed of the one or the other. Confucius never appeared to give the evils of polygamy a thought. He mourned deeply the death of his mother; but no generous word ever passed his lips about woman as woman. Nor had he the idea of any progress or regeneration of society. The stars all shone to him in the heavens behind; none beckoned brightly before. It was no doubt the moral element of his teaching, springing out of his view of human nature, which attracted many of his disciples, and still holds the best part of the Chinese men of learning bound to him; but the conservative tendency of his lessons—nowhere so apparent as in the Ch‛un Cl‛iu—is the chief reason why successive dynasties have delighted to do him honour. (J. Le)
CONGÉ D’ÉLIRE (in Norman French, congé d’eslire, leave to elect), a licence from the crown in England issued under the great seal to the dean and chapter of the cathedral church of the diocese, authorizing them to elect a bishop or archbishop, as the case may be, upon the vacancy of any episcopal or archiepiscopal see in England or in Wales. According to the Chronicle